The Creative Sound Blaster E5 is perhaps one of the most complex DAC/Amp’s under $199, heck even under $500 I would say the same thing. This is perhaps the ultimate convergence gadget for audiophiles and gamers who desire an upgrade on their audio experience this far. It has a wealth of features, and a ton of connectivity options that would even give a 24/7 reviewer a nightmare to cover extensively and evenly without thinking they have missed something. You have Bluetooth, a DAC, an Amp, a mic (3 to be precise), you have optical in, optical out, line in and out, OTG, iOS and …goodness the list ain’t half long is it? I do not think the E5 right now can be beaten for feature value by any DAC/Amp anywhere for this price.
From an audio viewpoint, and this maybe a little due to my personal preferences of a more lush liquid sound, the E5 is not the pinnacle of amping for $199. It is a huge improvement on the E1 and E3 but it still has a little bit of work for my money on besting the likes of the Cayin C5 and the FiiO E18 in terms of smoothness and maturity in the amp. Do not get me wrong, the E5’s clean, detailed and tuning with a bass bias will get many admirers but its treble tizzy performance and slight harshness might grate with some more used to a smoother delivery. Pair it well though with an earphone and headphone that has a rolled off treble and the E5 does indeed sound very good but pair it with a treble sensitive IEM or headphone and the mismatch can jar a little. There are some reports of noise though I personally did not experience any noise in the 4-5 I tested the E5 with.
And yet it will be the Sound Blaster E5 I will be using for on the go over the E18 or C5 in all but the most audio driven situations. This is really a case of the sum of the parts for me. My needs for mobility and connectivity while on the go or in the office are far more complex than at home. At home I sit on a chair and I plug in, my audio needs are high and demanding but my connectivity issues are relatively simply and obvious – wired and more wired. Once I am out and about though wires and what device plugs into what does become an issue. The Sound Blaster E5’s BT performance is excellent and really is a key persuader. Match it with say an aptX compatible mobile phone you are talking above average quality and something I can happily listen to on the go.
- Output: Stereo
- Output: 56mW @ 600 ohms.
- Audio Processor: SB-Axx1™
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 120dB (DAC)
- Connectivity Options (Main)
- Line / Mic / Optical In: 1 x 3.5mm jack
- Headphone Out : 2 x 3.5mm jacks
- Line / Optical Out : 1 x 3.5mm jack
- USB Host Streaming: 1 x Type-A USB Port
- Max Channel Output: Stereo
- Audio Technologies: SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice